Driving around Europe with Natural Gas: VW Touran, Fiat Panda and more

Compressed Natural Gas, CNG, is currently widely used in some cities (such as Paris or Barcelona) to power public buses. Natural gas burns very clean and, although it still pollutes with CO2, it avoids the most of the rest of nasty by-products that come out of the tailpipe.

ERDGAS, the biggest natural gas company in Germany, is promoting intensively the use of Compressed Natural Gas with passenger vehicles, even offering home fueling stations linked to the normal gas distribution network. The bread&butter German brands, such as Volkswagen and Opel have a couple of models able to run with CNG at relatively low prices. There are fueling stations (sparse) around Germany, and even Erdgas offers a route planner that takes in consideration that CNG vehicles need to be refueled more times.

Availability is not that easy outside Germany and every country is different. In France, the national gas company, Gaz de France, allows consumers to install compressors to fill up the cars, but they take up to 9 hours. Carrefour announced some gas pump at their gas stations and PSA cars can be ordered with CNG options.

If you want to check a couple more of models and some more information about running a CNG in Europe, follow me through the jump.
Italy shows an interessant situation. Up to the 50s, 3 percent of Italian cars ran on methane. However, only 470 pumps are nationally available for fueling. Fiat has a couple of models using this fuel, although they're also able to run fully on gasoline.

Countries like the UK, Spain, Portugal or Greece do not have widespread facilities for gas fueling, although you can always order a home fueling station.


Which brings us to the VW Touran CNG, shown at the top of this article. The Touran CNG is based on the 1.6l gasoline version of the model with extra tanks for the gas and a reduced one for the auxiliary gasoline engine. Its got 109 horses and autonomy is good for 310km (200 miles).

Another compact MPV, the Opel Meriva, exhibited at the Barcelona International Auto Show. With a 1.6 CNG good for 94 HP and 138 CO2 g/km. This engine can also be installed in the Opel Combo small van.

Opel displayed the CNG tanks with a mirror strategically placed under the car.

This is how you fuel a CNG gas. Check the gasoline and the gas caps (neatly placed and unnoticed).

The cute-as-a-pie Fiat Panda with a 1.3l engine but with a normal gas tank. Good for up to 300 km (200 miles) with 14kg of gas. The same layout can be installed in the Fiat Punto (old model).

Those were just samples of regular cars that can be purchased in Germany that run on CNG, with full warranty from the manufacturer. If you want a complete list from the Erdgas website, click here (link is in German).

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